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Section Header
1991 Epic Soundtrax

2012 La-La Land

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
John Neufeld
Alexander Courage
Angela Morley

Labels and Dates:
Epic Soundtrax
(November 26th, 1991)

La-La Land Records
(March 27th, 2012)

Also See:
Far and Away
Home Alone
Jurassic Park
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Audio Clips:
1991 Epic Album:

1. Prologue (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

12. The Never-Feast (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

14. You Are the Pan (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

17. Farewell Neverland (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

The 1991 Epic album was a regular U.S. release. Several bootlegs, often in the form of 2-CD sets, debuted on the secondary market in 1998 and 1999, led in popularity by the "Concorde" bootleg of the latter year.

The expanded 2012 La-La Land set is limited to 5,000 copies and was available primarily through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $30. Despite passing 3,500 copies sold in its first day, the 2012 set did not sell out quickly as anticipated.

  The song "When You're Alone" was nominated for an Academy Award. The score was nominated for a Grammy Award.

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Sales Rank: 280484

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Buy it... if you want to hear John Williams at his best, for Hook is one of the most thematically diverse, robust, and beautiful orchestral scores of the 1990's.

Avoid it... on the late-1990's bootlegs or the 2012 La-La Land Records set if you demand a comprehensive presentation of the whole score in chronological order and flawless sound, a fantasy dashed by lingering issues with the otherwise impressive 2012 product.

Hook: (John Williams) Despite the magic inherent in its story, Hook became the epitome of a major studio production disaster. So much passion was poured into the concept by so many imaginative minds and yet, in the watered down movie that resulted, all of that enthusiasm had drained from the spirit of the film and critics appropriately commented that Hook seemed mechanical in its style. Before anything resembling the final picture was undertaken, composer John Williams and his friend and lyricist Leslie Bricusse (with whom Williams had collaborated on songs as far back as Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1969) had worked in 1985 on a stage musical of Hook's story, but the project was cancelled after the two had completed ten songs. Three years later, director Nick Castle rearranged the story into a script for the big screen, but TriStar removed Castle from directing duties after the final re-write of Hook and replaced him with Steven Spielberg. The ever popular Spielberg, whose artistic prowess was slightly diminished after falling from the pinnacle of success he experienced in the previous decade, was a logical choice for TriStar. The director had always harbored a fascination with the Peter Pan story and had intended at some point to direct a sequel to the tale that very much resembled the premise of Hook. Additionally, he obviously had a strong working relationship with Williams, who naturally adapted much of his work from the failed 1985 concept into the screen translation. Spielberg had also been interested in the idea of creating musicals, for the Peter Pan story or otherwise, but by the time of his involvement with Hook, the musical formula had been dumped in favor of a regular live-action feature with a traditional score. The $80 million budget of Hook eventually bought a strong cast and, mostly, spectacular sets. The busy art direction, however, betrayed the film and became one of its weaknesses, as did many of the big-name supporting actors. The film lacked the spark of life that everyone expected from an imaginative Spielberg offering, and his seeming loss of enthusiasm somewhere along the line also carried over to several of the other production elements.

Luckily, one of the few aspects of Hook not to suffer from this malaise was Williams' music, despite the fact that the composer had been forced to abandon the original musical format of much of his material. Long after the muddled film became an asterisk in Spielberg's career (as well as one of note for Gwyneth Paltrow, for whom Hook was her first major studio film), Williams' massive score endures as one of his fans' favorites. Of the original songs he conjured with Bricusse, two appeared relatively unscathed in Hook (and another became a source piece). Many of the remainder were adapted by the maestro into themes for various elements of the story, which explains why so many of his ideas in the score are so lyrical in nature. As Williams stated in 1992, "I used music which could be also named 'theatrical' or 'ballet music.' When Peter Pan manages to fly, the orchestra plays music that reminds us of a very fast dance of a ballet. The same in the Ultimate War sequence. The music follows the rhythm of the picture, underlines the action. Somebody makes an intense move and the orchestra follows him with an emphasis, like the strings. Somebody else is dreaming and the orchestra describes the sense of this dream. In other words, my music for Hook doesn't abstain from that of a cartoon, where the music has to be attached in the picture." In light of these comments, listeners shouldn't be surprised by frequent comparisons between parts of this score and Tchaikovsky's tunes for "The Nutcracker." Still, Williams was no stranger to films that used a dozen combined themes and motifs, and Hook went so far as to push twenty distinct representations. This luxury of specific identity for so many parts of the story causes the score to be among the most interesting and sustaining of the composer's career, foreshadowing The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in complexity. As an adventure score, it romps with some of the most exhilarating swashbuckling tones to come from Hollywood in the Digital Age. As a children's score, it moves with the grace and sincerity of Home Alone. As a dramatic score, it offers extended sequences of weighty beauty in its latter half. The realm of fantasy obviously inspires Williams, and Spielberg's involvement only amplifies that belief. "This area, the area of fantasy," Williams continues, "is the best one that can exist for music."

The disjointed film, jumping from location to location, modern to mythical, forced upon Williams the burden of not only using so many of his previous ideas for the concept, but also required a plethora of differing styles rolled into those themes. To successfully keep pace with the frenetic movement and countless characters of the film, Williams composed an enormous mass of music for the production, and much of it stylistically previewed several scores still to come from his pen. Pieces were interpreted from Home Alone and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and much of the underdeveloped material would later blossom in Far and Away, Jurassic Park, and even Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In retrospect, Hook seems as though it was fertile testing ground for countless new ideas from Williams, some of which reaching a spectacular maturity in the score while others simply serving as rambling teasers. The two 1985 songs directly adapted into Hook include "We Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "When You're Alone." The first is translated into an obnoxious source piece for a grade school performance near the start of the film. The latter earned Williams a surprising Oscar nomination, doubling as the orchestral theme for the grown Peter's kids. The remainder of the score's themes have never been entirely confirmed as either being connected to the 1985 songs or not, but nobody can claim that the primary title theme for Hook isn't among the composer's most impressive creations. Williams translated this theme into a 90-second fanfare for the film's beautiful and unique, map-traveling theatrical trailer, a rare occasion when a preview does the honor of introducing the film's eventual theme in glorious, overture fashion. Williams doesn't often do this; in fact, the next time he would attempt such a feat would come ten years later for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The trailer cue is entitled "Prologue" on the albums for Hook, and it has been argued as being the best minute and a half Williams has ever composed, even when included with all of his more famous efforts. So flighty and energetic is the swashbuckling attitude of this theme and its rowdy arrangement that it sets an elevated standard that the rest of the score has difficulty maintaining. Fortunately, the subsequent music comes close, which is all that's necessary to earn it the label of modern classic.

Outside of the trailer, the memorable title theme for Hook exists most prominently at 8:50 into "Remembering Childhood" (the most powerful ensemble performance on the remainder of the album) and about a minute into "The Ultimate War." Often associated with the title theme is Williams' representation of flying. This "flying theme" is a jovial and often rousing piece that receives its first swell of excitement from the full ensemble at 5:05 into "The Arrival of Tink and Flight to Neverland." It had existed previously as an appropriately slight hint in "Granny Wendy" (at 1:25) before unseating the title theme as the most prevalent idea in the pivotal "Remembering Childhood" (at 5:10 and 9:10) and "Farewell Neverland" (at 7:55 and 8:55) cues. In the former, a somber solo piano supplants the "childhood memory theme" as an equally effective reminder of innocence lost. The nature of this piano performance suggests heavily that this theme could easily have originated in song form. The "childhood memory theme" is one of lament for the older Peter Pan, and it contributes much of the melancholy melodrama in the score's second half. A flourish of this theme explodes at the two minute mark in "From Mermaids to Lost Boys" and anchors "Remembering Childhood" with solo performances passed around the woodwind section starting at 3:00. A lush string rendition of the theme exists early in "Farewell Neverland" (continuing for two minutes) and Williams adapted the idea into a rousing but unused suite-like form in "Exit Music." A particularly attractive secondary phrase to this theme also suggests possible song origins. The theme for Peter's kids, as mentioned already, is the basis for the "When You're Alone" song. The reminiscing parts of "Remembering Childhood" touch upon this identity (immediately at the start of the cue) before fragments compliment "Farewell Neverland" at about 1:00 and again at 7:25. Although the entire score for Hook can easily be described as a raucous and spirited ride, these three softer themes dominate the film's lengthy reflective sequences. The serious family side of Home Alone is prevalent in these portions, but Williams also uses a lofty choir to punctuate these moments of innermost feelings, a technique rare in the composer's career. Both "You Are the Pan" and "Farewell Neverland" provide mesmerizing choral performances that are spectacular counterpoint to the dynamic action otherwise heard during the swashbuckling scenes.

Several less important, but sometimes equally compelling secondary themes exist throughout Hook. The cute woodwind-driven theme for Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee is a page taken directly from the Home Alone formula for bumbling villains. The slight waltz rhythm to this theme is very attractively fleshed out in the entirety of "Smee's Plan" with the kind of emphasis on instrumental creativity later heard in The Terminal. A faster and more robust announcement of this theme bursts with truly cartoonish exuberance at 1:55 in "Presenting the Hook," building to a frenzied ensemble crescendo, and the full version of "The Ultimate War" concludes with a glorious end to this idea. After a dedicated kidnapping theme is introduced in full late in "Hook-Napped," two subthemes for Hook and Smee's pirate gang exist in "Presenting the Hook." The first, heard at 0:20, is a jolly Irish jig that foreshadows Far and Away, while the second, starting at 1:20, is a sly bass woodwind rhythm accompanied by great viola or fiddle counterpoint (and a touch of owl-like sound effects). Together, the pirate-related tracks on the Hook albums are something of a guilty pleasure because of their affable character and break of pace. A pretty theme for the film's other major character, Tinkerbell, is teased at the start of "We Don't Wanna Grow Up" before its usual xylophone likeness is presented at 1:55 into "The Arrival of Tink and Flight to Neverland" and at 5:20 into "Farewell Neverland." This theme truly does shamelessly rip a page from Home Alone. A less utilized theme for Wendy, her home, and the concept of redemption is introduced early and quietly on flute and bells in "Granny Wendy" and doesn't return in a major role until "Farewell Neverland." Likely a "redemption theme" more than one specifically for Wendy, this idea is heard in ensemble performances at 6:00, 8:25, and 9:15 in the finale cue, the last of which serving as the monumentally dramatic closing of the entire score. The snowy London setting seen during this cue is yet another reminder of Home Alone. Among the many lesser themes, the "lost boys theme" exists, understandably, throughout "The Lost Boy Chase" (starting immediately) and the "banquet/food theme" is a playful tune heard for full ensemble in "The Banquet" and at 1:15 in "The Never-Feast." The role of the brass in this theme is remarkable, including a delightful tuba solo at 1:50 into "The Banquet." Other motifs come and go, including Peter's action theme in "The Ultimate War," though none is particularly vital.

The action cues in Hook often extend these themes to forceful ranks, led by the 20-minute powerhouse "The Ultimate War," which had to be cut down to eight minutes to fit onto the commercial album. This rumbling, timpani-pounding action material moves with the same layered complexity and frantic pace that would prevail in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, though the perpetually unpredictable turns of events in Hook don't allow the themes in these cues many luxuries of extended performances. Other notable individual moments in the score include the sound effect of birds at 2:25 in "From Mermaids to Lost Boys" and other creative dubs of similar things in other places (aided by extensive flute fluttering in the almost humorous "Pan is Challenged"). The French horn counterpoint in the early choral part of "You Are the Pan" (featuring a subtheme for the concept of leadership) is extremely memorable. Less impressive is how the score begins. In the film, you don't hear any orchestral underscore for ten minutes, and it's not until the first flight cue that the music has an appreciable impact. The same can be said about the album releases, excepting the trailer music, of course. The Dave Grusin-like urban jazz in "Banning Back Home" is truly hideous and needs to be ignored, despite the fact that it adds another theme to the list. Only when the Harry Potter-like mystery of "Hook-Napped" explores hints of the title and kidnapping themes does the score really start to cook. The conversational suspense cues involving Hook ("Hook Challenged Peter" and "Hook's Lesson") and the simmering development of his themes are rather tepid as well. Overall, however, Hook is somewhat of a hidden gem due to the sinking of the film after a short initial burst at the box office. Williams did not expect to win an Oscar for his nominations for JFK or Hook, understanding that Beauty and the Beast was an unstoppable force that year ("Choosing Beauty and the Beast was closer to Hollywood tradition and less risky for all. I'm used to choices like that," he said at the time). The original Epic Soundtrax album's first pressing was one of the most flawed endeavors ever to haunt a Williams score, failing to include technical or engineering information, credits, notes, or even track titles on the packaging because of its last minute assembly. Fans unhappy with the 75-minute editing of the score (which really isn't that offensive in its musical offerings, all things considered), treated themselves to bootlegs in the late 1990's that extended the music over several CDs, ranging in sound quality and completeness.

1991 Epic Album:
Only $9.99
In 2012, La-La Land Records released a long-awaited and legitimate 2-CD set containing over 140 minutes of music from Hook, though the product did not come easily and without some controversy. The contents of this album, as well as its generally fine sound quality, will satisfy almost all collectors. It sold 3,500 of its 5,000 copies from the label in a single day, an impressive feat for a $30 offering. Three years of development went into the album, including painstaking efforts to resurrect and arrange all of Williams' many takes in the best possible quality of sound. The composer himself became involved and guided the production through its final arrangements as well, and with significant support from Sony, fans could rejoice over this long awaited replacement for the long-standing bootlegs. Controversy and negative fanboy hysteria involving La-La Land's Hook arose almost immediately, however. The choice of what music to include and what to omit became a problem at the time of Williams' involvement; the composer insisted that music he deemed redundant or uncomplimentary of the whole (like "Take Me Out to the Ballgame") be dropped from the presentation. Additionally, to reflect his arrangements of the original 1990 album, several of the score's seemingly unnecessary merging of cues into non-chronological suites of like material have been retained. Williams recorded a number of inserts for Hook, some of which quite memorable, and these were not included or mixed in to their surrounding cues like some fans had hoped. On top of that, the arrangements and some difficulty with the source used for this product (which was less than desirable, from several accounts) cause many cues to suffer abnormally abrupt beginnings or conclusions, most notably the dissatisfying start of "Farewell Neverland." The "Ultimate War" trio of cues, the last of which had not been available in really decent sound previously, experiences several obnoxious fluctuations in volume and unnecessary loops. The only solution to some of these issues is to revisit the 1990 product. Some of the default tracks on the 2012 album are worthy alternates, however, including the impressive addition of more choral accompaniment to "You Are the Pan." The "Prologue" track on both albums is still different from the trailer's version, featuring a different tempo and pitch applied in the editing process. Ultimately, the 2012 album is a winner (highlighted by the new "Exit Music" track at its end), but the set is not comprehensive and without audio problems. Despite lingering concerns about the albums, though, the music for Hook remains one of the most thematically diverse, robust, and beautiful scores of the 1990's. It would be the final great children's score for Williams in the century. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,055 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 4.15 Stars
Smart Average: 3.87 Stars*
***** 2185 
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    * Smart Average only includes
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   La-La Land Records to release expanded OST
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   Re: Lyrics to When You're Alone?
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   Re: Hook is at best a 3 star score.
  KK -- 5/10/10 (9:31 p.m.)
   Re: Hook is at best a 3 star score.
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   Re: Hook is at best a 3 star score.
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 Track Listings (1991 Epic Album): Total Time: 75:23

• 1. Prologue (1:30)
• 2. We Don't Want to Grow Up - performed by cast ensemble (1:50)
• 3. Banning Back Home (2:22)
• 4. Granny Wendy (2:57)
• 5. Hook-napped (3:56)
• 6. The Arrival of Tink and the Flight to Neverland (5:55)
• 7. Presenting the Hook (2:58)
• 8. From Mermaids to Lost Boys (4:24)
• 9. The Lost Boy Chase (3:31)
• 10. Smee's Plan (1:44)
• 11. The Banquet (3:07)
• 12. The Never-Feast (4:39)
• 13. Remembering Childhood (11:02)
• 14. You Are the Pan (3:59)
• 15. When You're Alone - performed by Amber Scott (3:13)
• 16. The Ultimate War (7:53)
• 17. Farewell Neverland (10:16)

 Track Listings (2012 La-La Land Album): Total Time: 140:35

CD 1: (68:18)
• 1. Prologue (1:30)
• 2. We Don't Wanna Grow Up - performed by cast ensemble (1:50)
• 3. Banning Back Home (2:25)
• 4. Granny Wendy (2:57)
• 5. The Bedroom* (1:07)
• 6. The Nursery* (1:38)
• 7. The Watch* (0:56)
• 8. Hook-Napped (3:56)
• 9. A Portrait of Wendy* (1:06)
• 10. The Arrival of Tink/The Flight to Neverland** (6:03)
• 11. Presenting the Hook (3:01)
• 12. Pirates!* (2:41)
• 13. Hook Challenges Peter* (7:50)
• 14. From Mermaids to Lost Boys** (5:13)
• 15. The Lost Boy Chase (3:32)
• 16. Smee's Plan** (3:25)
• 17. Pan is Challenged* (1:20)
• 18. Hook's Lesson* (3:08)
• 19. The Banquet (3:10)
• 20. The Never-Feast (4:41)
• 21. Hook's Madness* (4:00)
• 22. Follow That Shadow* (2:38)

CD 2: (72:17)
• 1. Remembering Childhood (11:04)
• 2. You Are the Pan** (4:03)
• 3. When You're Alone - performed by Amber Scott (3:16)
• 4. Tink Grows Up* (2:20)
• 5. The Ultimate War: To War** (9:45)
• 6. The Ultimate War: The Death of Rufio* (2:36)
• 7. The Ultimate War: Sword Fight* (5:32)
• 8. Farewell Neverland** (11:15)
• 9. End Credits** (6:08)

Bonus Tracks: (16:20)
• 10. Prologue (Alternate)* (1:35)
• 11. Banning Back Home (Film Version)* (3:14)
• 12. Presenting the Hook (Film Version - Extended)** (5:03)
• 13. Hook's Blues* (2:17)
• 14. Wendy Tells Peter the Truth (Partly Unused)* (2:24)
• 15. Exit Music (Unused)* (1:42)

* previously unreleased
** contains previously unreleased material

 Notes and Quotes:  

The 1991 Epic album's packaging is a disgrace. The insert was designed at the last minute (before the musical contents of the album were even known), causing a lack of track listings, credits, notes, or engineering information in its sparse pages. The thick insert of the 2012 La-La Land set contains extensive information about the film and the score, including a track-by-track analysis. Some track times on its packaging are incorrect, however.

  All artwork and sound clips from Hook are Copyright © 1991, 2012, Epic Soundtrax, La-La Land Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 8/19/12. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.